Prepare now for a successful calving season
Planning for all possibilities is the best way to prepare for a successful calving season according to Patrick Davis, livestock specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
“Your goals should be a cow giving birth with little difficulty to a healthy calf, providing adequate quality and quantity of nourishment to the calf and then rebreeding during the next breeding season,” said Davis.
Condition and feeding
Cow condition score should be evaluated about 60 days prior to calving according to Davis.
“Cows should calve at a body condition score of six which will allow them the ability to lose one body condition score from calving to breeding and still be at body condition score five which is the optimum body condition score for conception,” said Davis.
A cow body condition score of five or greater will insure proper fetal development, the calf having a strong immune system to fight off sickness and other causes of early mortality.
Daily supplementation will influence when calves are born. Previous research in Iowa reported that 85 percent of cows fed once daily at dusk calved between 6 a. m. and 6 p. m. Late afternoon or early evening feeding cause’s intraruminal pressure to increase at night and decrease during the day which increases the likelihood of daytime birth.
“This supplementation strategy should begin about one to two weeks before the expected calving time of the herd,” said Davis.
Health and vaccinations
A cow’s colostrum will pass her health and vaccination status along to the calf.
“Cows in proper health and up to date on vaccination status will pass along the best immunity possible to the calf which causes the calf to get off to a healthy start,” said Davis.
Supplies and facilities
Make sure equipment and facilities are in good working order prior to the calving season. The calving area should be clean, dry, strong, safe and functioning correctly.
Develop an obstetrical kit that includes obstetrical sleeves, disinfectant, lubricant, obstetrical chains, and obstetrical handles that are mobile so it can be used in the barn and other places on the farm where cows need assistance during calving.
Calving and calf processing
Develop a plan for when the cow is calving. This should include what to do, who to call if there is trouble, and how to know when there is trouble. This plan should be posted in the barn along with phone numbers of people to call.
“Once the calf is born make sure that it is healthy, active and nurses to get the full amount of colostrum,” said Davis.
Spring born calves may be born during very cold temperatures which increases the potential for calf frostbite or freezing to death. It is important to have an area to warm the calf to keep it from freezing to death and reducing the chance of frost bite.
“Once the calf is born monitor health status. During the first day after birth the calf should be identified either through tag, tattoo or both and bull calves castrated as needed,” said Davis.